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Serena Williams’ US Open swansong ends with three-set classic against Tomljanovic

Serena Williams had ended her career with one final long intense battle – a 3 hour five-minute third round loss to Ajla Tomljanovic in front of a packed Arthur Ashe Stadium

Serena Williams, US Open 2022 Serena Williams, US Open 2022 | © AI / Reuters / Panoramic

Serena Williams‘ final US Open ended with an electrifying three-hour three-set third round loss to Australia’s Ajla Tomljanovic (7-5, 6-7, 6-1) in front of a raucous crowd on Arthur Ashe Stadium.

“I tried. Ajla just played a little bit better”, Williams said on the on-court interview where she cried ‘happy tears’ as she thanked her parents, sister and the rest of her family and support team.

The 23-time Grand Slam singles champion had announced in early August that she would be stepping aside from the sport, or ‘evolving’ as she preferred to call it, to expand her family and focus on other chapters in her life.

“It’s been a fun ride” Williams added. “It’s been the most incredible ride and journey I’ve ever been on, I mean, in my life. I’m just so grateful to every single person that’s ever said, ‘Go, Serena’, in their life. I’m just so grateful. You got me here.”

For large parts of the three hours on Friday evening, she looked like very much the player who dominated women’s tennis for more than two decades.

Williams was the one who got the first break and led 5-3 in the first set before Tomljanovic won four games on the trot to seal the first set 7-5.

Not ready to bid goodbye to the sport just yet, Serena amped up her game and took a two-break 4-0 lead before Tomljanovic mounted another comeback.

The Aussie pulled back to 5-2, saving four set points in the eighth game, and broke back to level the set at 5-5. In the tiebreak, Williams saw a 4-1 lead blow up again but managed to win three points in a row from 4-4 to force a decider.

Serena Williams saves five match points in dazzling final game

In the decider, it was Tomljanovic who dominated the proceedings as she broke twice to lead 5-1 and serve for the match.

But as the crowd on Ashe Stadium rose on their feet to give her a standing ovation, Williams provided them one final burst of her dazzling play.

Australia's Ajla Tomljanovic at the 2022 US Open in New York
Australia’s Ajla Tomljanovic against Serena Williams at the 2022 US Open in New York Image Credit: AI / Reuters / Panoramic

She saved five match points, most of them with the type of aggressive tennis that helped her become the G.O.A.T. in women’s tennis. Serena earned three break points in that game as the crowd willed her on to break her opponent’s serve.

But showing tremendous poise and composure, Tomljanovic saved each of them and finally converted her sixth match point to complete the 7-5, 6-7, 6-1 win in three hours and five minutes.

“I was extremely nervous because I’ve never played on Ashe, I’ve never faced Serena. I knew the crowd would be tough” said Tomljanovic. “From the first ball I was happy I felt comfortable. From then on, it was kind of instinct.”

Tomljanovic is through to the fourth round of the US Open for the first time in nine main draw appearances and she next meets Liudmila Samsonova. The Russian scored a 6-3, 6-3 win over Aleksandra Krunic to record her13th win in a row on the tour.

US Open, New York City (Grand Slam), other third-round results

  • Caroline Garcia (17) beat Bianca Andreescu: 6-3, 6-2
  • Liudmila Samsonova beat Aleksandra Krunic: 6-3, 6-3
  • Alison Riske-Amritraj (29) beat Xiyu Wang: 6-4, 3-6, 6-4
  • Coco Gauff (12) beat Madison Keys (20): 6-2, 6-3
  • Shuai Zhang beat Rebecca Marino: 6-2, 6-4
  • Veronika Kudermetova (18) beat Dalma Galfi: 6-2, 6-0
  • Ons Jabeur (5) beat Shelby Rogers (31): 4-6, 6-4, 6-3
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